Dai Wensheng and his Vietnamese wife A Yin at their wedding
held last October in Vietnam. Provided by Dai Wensheng
Shanghai native A Dong and his Vietnamese wife A Jin
at their wedding. Provided by A Dong
A growing number of Chinese men are seeking wives from Vietnam because they cannot find a suitable partner in their own country. Guo Shuhan and Erik Nilsson report
After 100 failed dates with Chinese women, Dai Wensheng decided to cast his eyes southward in his search for the ideal bride.
Like a growing number of men in his position, the 43-year-old Nanjing native found his perfect match, A Yin, in Vietnam, last August.
"I knew she was different from other women when I tried to hold my umbrella above her to shield her from the scorching sun," Dai recalls. "She grabbed it and held it over my head instead."
The couple married two months later and A Yin is now one-month pregnant. She's adapting well, having learned basic Chinese and also acclimated to Nanjing's cold.
Dai says her pleasant demeanor has helped him cultivate business relationships, because potential partners are more likely to trust a man with a good wife.
But Dai didn't stop at joining the swelling ranks of Chinese looking for love across its southern border.
Since September, he has been organizing "marriage tours" for men like him to seek Vietnamese spouses.
More than half of these prospective suitors are from Beijing or Shanghai, have at least a bachelor's degree, and are aged between 35 and 45. A third are mid-level or top executives at multinational companies.
These potential grooms travel to Vietnam where they go on blind speed dates with about 10 women, aged 18 to 25, a day.
An older woman in Vietnam, colloquially known as an "adopted mother", picks the women who have at least a high school education.
The result, Dai says, has been nearly 50 "matches made in heaven".
While it's a relatively new trend on the mainland, nearly 87,000 Vietnamese married men from Taiwan between January 1987 and March 2008, an online report by the Asia Cross-border Marriage Network says.
It's difficult to determine the number of Vietnamese brides on the mainland, because couples can register in either country.
Several factors are giving momentum to the emergent phenomenon on the mainland, says Deng Weizhi, a cross-border marriage expert at Shanghai University.
One is Chinese women's rising social and economic status. Another is a ratio of 114 men for every 100 women in coastal areas and a larger disparity in central and western regions, he explains.
China is a particularly appealing place for Vietnamese women, because the two cultures share similar customs and festivals, he says.
For men, "It's Vietnamese women's mild dispositions and traditional respect for husbands that makes the prospect desirable," Deng says.
A Shenzhen native who runs the "Vietnam Blind Dating" website www.ynxnw.com, surnamed Zhou, agrees.
He says that while he can't explain all his clients' motivations, one feeling resonates with many: "I'm sick of Chinese women's snobbery."
The 40-year-old has a Vietnamese girlfriend and also runs matchmaking tours to the country, taking about three men twice a month. He refuses men in their 20s, because they might not be serious about marriage.
The idea for the service came from his experience operating an import-and-export business in Vietnam.
Dai never thought of seeking a bride across the border until 2008, when he stumbled upon an online article about Chinese marrying Vietnamese.
His own 2-year dating history with Chinese women kept leading him back to the same point.
"I really had a growing feeling the women I was meeting just wanted to marry into money and have a higher social status," Dai says.
After three months' preparation, Dai set out for Vietnam last August to hunt for the ideal woman.
He chronicled his month-long quest on his blog. Every post garnered many comments, mostly from well-wishers and other men who expressed an interest in following in his footsteps.
Some of these men, such as a Beijing native, surnamed Zhao, would later find the love of his life with Dai's help.
The 39-year-old website manager was shy around women. His romantic problems weren't helped by the fact they thought he should be doing better in his career and earning more.
He first joined the tour in February to experience Vietnam's culture. This month, with his parents' blessing, he returned to seek a wife and found love. He and his potential bride are awaiting her parents' approval.
"Vietnamese women have a totally different set of requirements (from Chinese women)," Zhao says.
"All they want is a considerate, honest and filial husband, and a loving, happy family."
Hopeful husbands-to-be pay 35,000 yuan ($5,128) to take the marriage tour. Some spend 5,000 yuan for an introductory trip to experience the country. Dai selects at most 10 men from among 100 applications per month.
Because about 50 percent of the potential grooms are divorced, Dai interviews them to flush out any undesirable motives.
He says he chooses men with an above average income because the women are dependant on their husbands. This is because of the language barrier, making it difficult for them to find a job. Also they are not eligible for social welfare in the first five years, after which they can become naturalized.
While many of the couples experience love at first sight, winning over the parents can prove tricky. Many men end up having to return to Vietnam for a second or third time.
Dai' wife, A Yin, was keen to get married, he says, because her elder sisters, who married men in Hong Kong and Taiwan, had created for her an image of Chinese husbands as caring and trustworthy.
The businessman, who also operates a media company based in Nanjing with offices in Hong Kong and Canada, arranges regular get-togethers for Vietnamese wives in Shanghai.
He has also set up an Internet chat group for the husbands to discuss various issues, such as the children's nationalities.
The businessman has already posted arrangements for next month's tour to Vietnam.
"I enjoy every trip and am pleased to see every happy union," he says.
But he warns applicants to bear in mind challenges, such as the language barrier, cultural differences and the expense of educating their children.
"Anyway, you need to be a good husband to have a good wife," Dai says.